The Happening

Rated 2.0

A high-school science teacher (Mark Wahlberg) and his wife (Zooey Deschanel) become terrified refugees when a strange malady afflicts the northeastern United States, infecting the citizens first with catatonia, then confusion, finally driving them to suicide. Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan’s career seems to have hit bottom with Lady in the Water and may be on the way up; that’s the good news. But he’s got a long way to go. This time, he provides a pervasive atmosphere of restive dread (undercut somewhat by James Newton Howard’s overwrought music) and some nice creepy moments—but other moments, and more, of (presumably) unintended humor. It’s a sort of eco-hysterical spin on Hitchcock’s The Birds—think The Plants. Hitch did it better, of course—after all, birds can fly; plants just stand there.